Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today’s Headlines and Commentary

By Victoria Gallegos
Thursday, April 22, 2021, 5:10 PM

Akayed Ullah, who detonated a pipe bomb in a subway tunnel near Times Square in the name of ISIS in 2017, was sentenced to life in prison today, reports the New York Times. The federal judge presiding over the case rejected Ullah’s request for mercy, and stated the bombing “was a calculated, premeditated decision to kill as many people as you could, all in the name of an organization that is dedicated to spreading terror.”

The House voted 216-208 along partisan lines today in favor of making Washington, D.C. the 51st state, but the bill will face stiff opposition in the Senate according to the Wall Street Journal. Washingtonians “pay taxes, fight in our wars, power our economy yet do not have a full voice in our democracy,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

President Biden will declare that the Ottoman Empire’s killings of Armenian civilians during World War I was an act of genocide, reports the Times. Biden will be the first American president to do so, and the impending declaration signals the administration’s commitment to human rights over the risk of deteriorating U.S.-Turkish relations. Earlier this week, Turkish Foreign Minister Menlut Cavusoglu said of the decision that “[s]tatements that have no legal binding will have no benefit, but they will harm ties...If the United States wants to worsen ties, the decision is theirs.”

The Russian Defense Ministry ordered its troops to withdraw from the Ukrainian border today, reports the Journal. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said that troops engaged in military exercises will return to their permanent place of deployment by May. Shoigu said the “forces have demonstrated their capacity for solid national defense...Therefore, I have decided to bring the check of the southern and western military districts to an end.” Also today, Russian President Vladimir Putin responded to an invitation by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to meet, stating “[i]f President Zelensky wants to start restoring these relations, we will only welcome it.”

The Czech Republic ordered Russia to remove most of its embassy staff today, following an expulsion of 18 Russian diplomatic staff over the weekend who were identified as intelligence officers and a retaliatory expulsion of 20 Czech embassy staff members from Moscow, reports Reuters. The two nations must have the same number of envoys, according to Czech Foreign Minister Jakub Kulhanek, which means Russia will need to withdraw 63 diplomats from Prague.

The head of U.S. Central Command testified that he was concerned about the Afghan security force’s ability to hold territory after the complete withdrawal of foreign troops, writes Reuters. Testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Marine General Kenneth McKenzie said “[m]y concern is the ability of the Afghan military to hold the ground that they’re on now without the support that they’ve been used to for many years...I am concerned about the ability of the Afghan military to hold on after we leave, the ability of the Afghan Air Force to fly, in particular, after we remove the support for those aircraft.”

The U.S. has provided Iran with examples of sanctions it will and will not lift in order to move forward with compliance of the Iranian nuclear deal, writes the Washington Post. After a second round of talks, negotiators are now focused on reaching an agreement on full lists of actions both sides are prepared to take to move forward with the compliance of the 2015 agreement.

France defended the Chadian army’s takeover of power after the president, Idriss Deby, was killed last week on the battlefield, reports Reuters. Shortly after his death, Deby’s son Mahamat took control after dissolving the parliament and suspending the constitution. According to the constitution, the National Assembly Speaker should have taken over.

ICYMI: Yesterday on Lawfare

Curtis Bradley, Jack Goldsmith and Oona Hathaway discussed new bipartisan legislation that would significantly improve transparency of international agreements.

Robert Chesney and Steve Vladeck shared an episode of the National Security Law Podcast, featuring a discussion on Afghanistan, sanctions against Russia and other national security law topics.

Lester Munson shared an episode of Fault Lines, featuring a conversation about U.S. troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, and the Biden administration’s sanctions on Russia.

Paul Rosenzweig argued that the U.S. could use a cyber leader with a private-sector background.

Sean Quirk explained the latest water war news, including the political standoff between China and the Philippines over a reef in the South China Sea.

Cornell Overfield explained extended continental shelves claims in the Arctic.

Jen Patja Howell shared an episode of the Lawfare Podcast, featuring audio from a virtual event on espionage fiction, hosted by the Michael V. Hayden Center for Intelligence, Policy, and International Security at George Mason University and moderated by Lawfare’s David Priess.

Howell shared an episode of Rational Security, the “Collusion Was Not an Illusion” edition.

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